Sugar reform vital for WTO success, says Commissioner Fischer Boel

As farm ministers meet in Brussels on 22 November, Agriculture Commissioner Fischer Boel has called for backing for her proposals for reform of the EU sugar regime.

Cuts in sugar subsidies, said Mariann Fischer Boel, were vital to upholding the EU’s position in the forthcoming WTO trade round ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December. 

The current EU sugar regime, left unreformed for 40 years, will expire in July 2006. 

In June 2005, the Commission put forward proposals for radical reform involving cuts in prices currently guaranteed to EU’s sugar beet producers of 39%. The subsidies have allowed European farmers to carry on producing sugar in volumes far exceeding those justified by the costs of production. European prices have been allowed to remain at three times world level and surpluses have been dumped on the international market to the detriment of producers from the developing world. 

The proposed reforms face bitter opposition from countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Ireland where subsidy cuts could result in a complete collapse of the industry. The Africa, Carribean and Pacific countries, who currently benefit from high prices on exports to the EU, are calling for a compromise deal of 19% cuts. 

In the face of current WTO-level pressure on western producers to cut agricultural subsidies, the EU’s sugar regime, argues Boel, is no longer tenable.

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